Thursday, 7 October 2010

From Salamanca

Alas, finding a computer is not an easy task. We are in  Salamanca at present but leave tomorrow for Segovia, then Madrid, and then Barcelona. We are staying in a parador, a Spanish government hotel, and this one is rather gorgeous, a large room, with a fabulous view of the old and new cathedrals and the city skyline, a luxurious bathroom with TWO washbasins, and a huge double bed.

All is well. The trip is about half over, and suddenly the days are starting to rush past. The group sets out in the morning for the day´s agenda, and then all too soon the time arrives when everything shuts for hours, and there is nothing to do except wander, get lost, or retreat to the hotel and write postcards, or perhaps make an effort to find those things which mysteriously disappear from the suitcase or the hotel room. Somehow I have managed to bring with me two hotel key cards, which fills me with guilt and embarrassment, but which must be an everyday occurrence for the hotel staff.

My Spanish is improving and I can understand a little more, order food, find toilets, and exchange elementary courtesies. My ear is getting used to the sound of it. Spain seems to be crawling with tourists of every nationality, but there are also signs of economic problems, with closed shops and lots of For Sale signs on houses. Apart from one grumpy and rude waitress, everyone has been pleasant, helpful, courteous and friendly, and so far, fortunately, we have felt very safe, apart from one attempted theft of a wallet from a back pocket.

We have travelled from Seville, Granada, Toledo, and now Salamanca, and seeing the countryside has been fascinating. It is a beautiful country, with a fascinating history. From my school days I read Spanish history and biography and have wanted to visit this country.

While I found the Moorish and Jewish sites and palaces beautiful and interesting, I am enjoying the Catholic churches far more, being much more familiar with the history, art and culture. The Moorish and Jewish architecture and decorative styles, while beautiful, are abstract, and convey no meaning to me other than aesthetic appreciation, but the Christian tradition, representational, and dynamic, is part of my history, upbringing, religious background and culture. They remain deeply significant to me. The building achievements are quite amazing. I wonder how people managed to build such high and complicated structures, and what the death and acident rate was for those working on the churches and cathedrals. Looking at the development and changes of artistic styles, and seeing how art was used to educate a largely illiterate population makes me think that much was lost when the paintings were removed, the stained glass smashed, and visual instruction replaced by the spoken word. And the written word, of course, but it is interesting how greatly in the last century with film and television people are returning to visual communications.

I have not managed to make many notes of the trip, being so tired by the end of the day that coherent thought and analysis are beyond me. We are all taking heaps of photographs, and I just hope that when I manage to get them on to my computer, I can remember what they all are.

1 comment:

ChrisB said...

Great to hear all your travel news - it sounds gwonderful and we all look forward to some great photos. Enjoy the second half of your holiday! x